This morning I reached into my raincoat pocket and came across a valuable, iconic, work of art. It was one of Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds. I was lucky enough to visit his sunflower seeds installation at Tate Modern when the public were allowed, indeed encouraged, to handle the seeds and throw them into the pile. A few weeks earlier the public had been allowed to walk on the seeds, but Tate Modern banned that in a gesture of solidarity with the authoritarian regime in China. Since then Ai Weiwei has got into trouble with his masters in China for being a little too frank about the shortcomings of the system out there. As if to emphasise the point, a video was shown next to the sunflower exhibit showing peasant women painting millions of ceramic sunflower seeds for a pittance. Apparently their ruthless employer then went to the capitalist West and sold the seeds for a fortune.
Because he’s been banned from travelling abroad, Ai Weiwei hasn’t been able to visit his latest artwork, a pavilion in Hyde Park, pictured here. The pavilion consists of a pond on top and a shelter/eating area underneath. The top is lovely, but the seating area below is depressing- shoddily made, dirty and dark. It’s perhaps a good thing that Ai Weiwei can’t see it, it might be too suggestive of confinement in a miserable place.